First in PACAF: A forecast of perfection
The 8th Operations Support Squadron weather flight poses in front of an F-16 Fighting Falcon April 27, 2012, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, after earning a 100 percent on their Standardization Evaluation Program Weather Operations inspection. The flight is integrated into four different operating locations across the wing to help provide mission-specific weather information. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/9/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Some say perfection is unattainable, but that's just what the 8th Operations Support Squadron weather flight accomplished during their inspection April 9 to 13.
The flight received an "Outstanding" 100 percent during the Standardization Evaluation Program for Weather Operations, the first in Pacific Air Forces since the current program's inception eight years ago.
"The ability to tailor a weather forecast to a mission profile is the 'bread and butter' of this career," said Lt. Col. Robert Swanson, PACAF weather branch chief who came from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "This flight has members embedded in flying squadrons who take the forecasts and help the squadron figure out when and where to fly, and which munitions to use."
The purpose of the SEPWO is to provide an objective assessment of mission readiness and effectiveness.
Two parts of the flight's performance especially impressed him: their in-depth training documentation and thorough job knowledge.
"We ran through several series of performance checklists to test what they knew," said Swanson, who was accompanied by two other PACAF inspectors. "They're extremely knowledgeable in their jobs and could walk us through scenarios when we asked, 'What would you do in this situation?'"
The flight has come a long way from six months ago, when a self-inspection showed they were only 58 percent compliant.
"We completely restructured the flight and our operating procedures to make them leaner and more operations-focused," said Master Sgt. William Barnwell, weather flight chief. "In order to continue providing seamless support to the 8th FW, we laid out a detailed three-phased plan to get us to our desired end state. We tightened up our integration with the fighter squadrons and other base agencies, and were able to fully exploit the weather by providing timely decision-grade information."
Earning a perfect score while enhancing combat effectiveness was the flight's goal from day one and it was accomplished through strong leadership, a positive attitude and a lot of hard work.
"Our flight quickly developed a culture of excellence and as new personnel rotated in they were quickly absorbed into that mindset," he added. "It was amazing to see how the positive and proactive attitude towards reaching our team goal became contagious."
The flight's commander, 1st Lt. Brandon Alford, agreed it was this contagious mindset that helped lead them to success.
"The team here is phenomenal. Every single person contributed to how we changed and accomplished our vision," he said. "We never thought of it as an inspection -- we were just doing the job we always do and we happened to have inspectors looking over our shoulders. Earning a 100 percent was a huge team effort."
Swanson praised the efforts and attitudes of the entire team and named two exceptional performers, Tech. Sgt. George Zambrana and Senior Airman Laura Kent.
"I was responsible for keeping the flight's training records up to date, all documentation being accomplished, ensuring our continuation training program is in compliance, and making sure everyone is position-qualified for all tasks for their duty," said Zambrana. "I am proud to be a part of a flight where everyone wanted to excel and was willing to put in the extra work to get in the position to get a perfect score."
Barnwell added that Kent was identified by the inspector as the only person ever to obtain a perfect score on the special interest item for manual observing, noting she accomplished this feat with poise while simultaneously managing rapidly-changing real world weather.
Barnwell's performance in leading the team impressed Swanson so much, he was invited to be a part of his team when he inspects bases in Japan later this month.